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My daughter’s 12-inch bicycle had a flat recently. I do not know what she did actually, because it looks like she wore a hole in the tire itself that is 3 centimeters long and a centimeter across!  The front tire is in decent condition, but might as well change it too.  I looked into the cost of repairing the bike: $12 per tire, $6 per bike tube, plus taxes and shipping because the local shops did not carry white wheels which match her pink bike. I also looked at the cost of a new bike too: $49.99 for a Disney Frozen bicycle with training wheels. She likes her bike though, so I thought I would try to fix it.

Thinking I could fix it was the first mistake.  When putting in the new tube and tire on her front wheel, it seems I punctured the brand new inner tube somehow.  The wheel deflates in under a minute! I suppose along with the parts I probably needed to order some sort of special bicycle tire repair kit along with it.  So now I am out $40 on bike parts, an hour of my precious time off from work, and I am now heading to the store today or tomorrow and am just going to buy a new damn bike.

Wasteful? Yes. However I am out an hour of my life and $40 of my hard earned money at this point.  To get another bike tube, buy the right plastic tools, pull off the tire I just put on today, redo the job, and then still do the back tire….well, that is going to cost me more than just buying a new damn bicycle. That hour of my time is a big deal to as I have a long list of stuff to repair in the house. I would have been better off just picking up the $49.99 bicycle on the way home from work.

What a time and place I live in where its just easier to dispose and buy new rather than fixing something. It makes me feel really guilty, yet I just do not have the time to waste. Of course I wasted more time by writing this rant…but I boiling over right now and need to rant.

Northern California 2012

I took a trip to Silicon Valley this year, and in my free time between work, I managed a brief trip to Pacifica to see the Pacific Ocean. I have see the Pacific from the shores of Japan in Chiba and Yokohama prefectures, but never before from the US.  Pacifica is about an hour east of San Jose, just south of Dale City, and just over the “hill” to the east of SFO airport.

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Words cannot describe the beauty of the Pacific coast

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Blue sky, blue water, jagged rocks

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Wait a minute, is that a trail?  I bet the view is better up there!

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Why yes, it is a trail, and that looks easy!  Just cross the stream and walk on up.

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OK, this might be harder than I thought.  I was wearing casual business shoes with NO GRIP.

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The view from the top was worth it though!

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Looking back to the land, there were no tall trees like one would find on the Atlantic coast, and lots of dry grass and land.  The trail in the center left had quite a few runners too.  There was no way down on this side of the hill though, so I had to go back the way I came, and it was a lot harder than going up.  It consisted of a controlled slide down the steep rocky portions, and a careful controlled walk on the dirt parts of the path.  Some shoes with some grip would have seriously helped.

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I had worked up an appetite, so after I had taken in the views, I headed back to San Jose for something to eat.  I stopped in Ramen Halu and tried their つけ麺 (tsukemen – cold ramen noodles dipped in soup).  The noodles and the soup were great, and the portions were large.  The only disappointing part of the meal was the thin char siu meat, but oh well.

It turned out this part of San Jose was like a little Tokyo, with a Kinokuniya book store and a Mitsuwa grocery store.  I picked up some study books for the JLPT at Kinokuniya, though I failed to find anything interesting for my son for learning hiragana.  I then picked up some basic supplies for my wife at Mitsuwa for the return trip.  It was only around 19:00 PST, but to my body it was 22:00 EST, so I headed back to the hotel to iron my shirt and get some sleep for the next day of work.  Pathetic, no?  I must be getting old.  But seeing the ocean, having a good hike, and finishing it off with a great meal simply made my day.  No need for anything else!

2012 in Review

I can honestly say that 2012 was the busiest and fastest pace year of my life. I reckon that life will only get busier. Since this blog is primarily a journal for me too look back on, I thought I’d throw up some pictures to remind myself of the year that went by.

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Good-bye, Charleston, South Carolina. It was interesting. I miss the pink an auburn sunsets, the spanish moss, and walking along the Wando river.  We moved to Northern Virginia in early February

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View from Arlington National Cemetery – Lincoln memory at the end of the bridge, and of course the iconic Washington monument to the right

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Walking in the streets of Annapolis, MD.  Go Navy!

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Air show – F/A 18 Hornet – my favorite jet as a kid growing up.  The F-22 demonstration though sure made these planes look a lot less impressive

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Air show – what happens when a prop plane and blimp…?  I suppose this aircraft was used for zero-gravity testing and training?

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Teaching my son the fine craft of prepping and grilling bbq – the Korean grocery marts have excellent cuts of ribs at great prices.  In the warmer months I was preparing ribs once a month!

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Grilled pork satay

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烏賊 (squid) on the grill

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Great Falls on the Potomic

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Mule ride at Great Falls Park

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Our tour guide – he was full of great information about this history and lives of the people working the canal, and the impacts of rail road development on the canal

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Eden Center – an entire shopping center full of Vietnamese shops, such as food, entertainment, beauty, travel, and grocer shops.  Notice the South Vietnamese flags.

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Bahn mi – liver pate and head cheese and hot peppers – delicious!

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Autumn colors

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View from the Northern Shenandoah Skyline Drive

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Downtown Leesburg, VA – quaint and pleasant town to visit when you want to get away from the bustle of modern life.  There are quite a few coffee shops and pubs along the main street

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Part of the Christmas Parade in Leesburg, VA

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State House in Raleigh, NC – spent the time after Christmas and before the New Year in the Research Triangle Area of NC this year.

Hopefully 2013 will be an easier year with more time to enjoy the little things.

Chicago 2011

I meant to post these photos last year, but 2012 got away from me and I never found the time to work on this blog.  So I was in Chicago for a job interview–I did not get the job–and though I was in the Chicago for less than twenty-four hours, I still enjoyed it.  Most of what I saw was from riding the L-train from Chicago O’Hare to and from downtown, and then walking around downtown the night before and the morning of the interview.

Chicago has this old feeling to it that I immediately came to appreciate and long for.  As the train dashed down the tracks I could see all of the old brick housing, built closely together and looking to be pre-World War II in construction.  There were lots of decks built onto the rear such housing, usually on the second or third level of the buildings.  Perhaps there are parts of the city where there are shiny new things, but I hope I don’t see them.  I like the small, old brick buildings packed so tightly together.  I like to imagine myself living in one of the units.  Shame I don’t have any photos, but it was too dark outside and the training was moving too fast for my mobile phone camera.

Forgive the mobile phone camera shots…one of these days I’ll be able to get a digital SLR.

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The L train runs above ground, and it curves around in a loop downtown and  at times it appears the train is just inches away from buildings when making a turn.  And yes, you can see into office buildings.  The metal tracking running throughout the downtown area gives the city an industrial feel that I do not know how to explain…

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You have to hike up the stairs to get to an L station, and I was surprised by the mix of heavy metal for the tracks, and then wood for the walking areas for passengers.  It just adds to this old, industrial feel that I had when I was in the city.

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A wooden platform, and there are booths on the platform with three glass walls and a heating element inside to help keep you warm in the strong Chicago wind during the winter.

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The former Sears Tower, now called the Willis Tower

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Hard to see in this smaller picture, but there were gargoyles and demons atop quite a few buildings.  You are being watched…

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The Chicago Stock Exchange…which no longer operates, but has let out the trading floor and offices to private companies t operate their businesses out of.

In the end I did not get the job; I did not quite have the skill-set that the potential employer was looking for.  I am still glad I got to the opportunity to interview with the company, see the interesting work they are doing, and also a chance to see a bit of Chicago.  In the future I would certainly consider another opportunity in Chicago, and I’d certainly entertain the opportunity to live in the neighborhoods of Chicago (versus the ‘burbs like Aurora).  I love the old feel to the city and I think that the old feel and grittiness is a part of what makes Chicago unique from other North American cities.

And you certainly cannot beat the great public transportation!  I was surprised to find that many interviewees at the company took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, rather than using the L system and hiking a few blocks to the hotel.  Oh well though, their loss in my opinion.

Sometimes I do feel like this

For your interpretation.

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Transient? Advanced aging due to a life lost in traffic? It could be all.

Welcome 2013

2013 has arrived.  I fell asleep in a chair around 23:00, but my wife woke me up around 23:45 to welcome in the new year.  I had to rise at 05:00 on December 31st to get into work early, and I just ran out of fuel around 23:00.  I just cannot stay up late like I used to do.  All of my energy goes to my work and to trying to raise the kids, just don’t have much energy at the end of a long day to stay up to watch a ball fall from above or Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffen putz around on the tube.  To think just five years ago I stayed up all night and talked and played card games with friends.  I managed to stay wake for the new year to arrive, but I fell asleep again shortly after 00:30.  Oh well.

For dinner on New Year’s Eve, I prepared 年越し蕎麦 (New Year Arrival Buckwheat noodles, or New Year Arrival Soba).  I could have bought the regular dried noodles imported from Japan, but since I live in little Korea, I thought I’d try to find fresh noodles–they just taste better.  I cannot read Korean, but in the Korean market I found one huge package of noodles with the Korean text and “Soba” in parenthesis.  I compared the Korean lettering on that package with that of the smaller packages, and I managed to take home some fresh Soba.  We noticed that Korean soba is much more brown than the Japanese equivalent.  My wife inspected the ingredients (listed in English due to FDA regulations), and we found that in Korean soba regular wheat is added to the buckwheat, which accounts for the darker color.  Regardless though, the noodles were very tasty, and we sent off the year with ざる蕎麦  (Cold Soba dipped in soup) and a spinach salad.  If you like Soba, Korean soba is damn good too.  We’ll have to buy it more often.

After dinner we watched the NHK Red & White festival listening to all of the different types of music and dancing: J-pop, 演歌 (Enka), and all of the other odd forms of Japanese pop-culture.  We moved from Japan more than three years ago, and I have not really watched any mainstream Japanese TV since moving away.  I still find myself missing Japan…but then I think back to how much time I had to spend at work in that country, and the thought of moving back to Japan fades out of my mind.  Any way, I could still recognize many of the actors, actresses, singers, etc.  These past three years have felt like an eternity to me, but in reality not much time has passed.  Where do the days go?

2012…what a year.  We had quite a few setbacks this past year, but at the same time I have a job now with real career potential, and I now have a precious daughter.  Of course, even at six months of age, she challenges me on everything, perhaps an omen for the future?  I find myself really wanting to buy some land and not having to move for awhile.  I don’t want a big house, but I want some land and a small house.  But here in the Washington Metro Area, I find that to be a pipe dream.  I want to put down a small garden and grow some green vegetables, but reality says I’ll be renting for the next decade at least and trying to grow some vegetables in flower pots.  At least it is a goal to work towards though.

2013 is going to be a big year–it has to be.  I have a lot to do, and I must do it and accomplish it all.  Failure is not an option this year.  I like odd numbered years, which I find to be more easy going than the even numbered years, so here is to hoping for a good year!  Happy New (Calendar) Year to all!!!

Election Oddities

Election season is finally over!  Unlike in the past, I did try to keep up with the election this year.  I watched all three presidential debates as well as the vice-presidential debate.  I followed stories in the Washington Post as well.  I even stood on queue for an hour to cast my ballot on November Sixth.  I am glad it is over and done with, and I am very thankful that Rick Perry is not the president.  He sure was popular in Charleston while I was living there, but at least the primary voters bumped him during the primary.  I suppose now we have the budget issues to look forward to…more brinkmanship on the horizon!

So I had some interesting mail back in mid-October.  I was a registered independent in SC, and when I registered to vote in Virginia, there was not even an option on the form.  I am just stating this to make it clear that I am not (knowingly) on a registrar of any conservative or liberal groups.  In mid-October, about a week after I submitted my own voter registration application, I received an odd notice in the mail from Americans for Limited Government. I was very curious about this notice, not because of the sender, but because of the red lettering in all capital letters “VOTE HISTORY AUDIT ENCLOSED“.  I was curious, very curious.

Upon opening the notice, I found the vote history audit and an application for voter registration.  There were not any overt political messages thankfully, but the message was encouraging me to register for the vote and be active in civic participation.  Nothing wrong with that.  The vote history audit, however, was rather creepy.  It did not show for whom I cast my ballot, but it had columns for 2004, 2008 and 2012.  It correctly showed that I did not vote in 2004–because I did not request my overseas absentee ballot in time–and that I did cast my vote in 2008.  For 2012, it was marked pending.  Even weirder though, where the names of six other voters with street addresses around my parents’ home.  While living overseas, my parents’ address was the address I used with the US Govt.  My parents’ next door neighbor, whose name I immediately recognized, also had his voting history in the audit.

I suppose voting attendance in and of itself is public information, but it felt a bit creepy to have what appears to be a conservative group sending out information to others about my voting attendance record.  I probably would not have blinked had my parents’ neighbors vote attendance history not been included in the notice.  The notice concluded saying that after elections the group would be sending an updated vote history audit to myself and my neighbors. Perhaps there was a hidden message, such as nag your neighbors to go out and vote?